SMBONES051594 by sgvnonline

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SMBONES May 15, 1994

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ily attracted curiosity long before construction workers unearthed a dismembered body behind their old home on Lorain Road. There was the main character, Ruth "Didi" Sohus, the USC debutante who took to drinking and socked her husband, Bob Sohus, in the face during a marital spat. "She fattened my lip," said Bob Sohus, who left the family in 1960; and lives in Phoenix. 1 : There was the adopted son, John Sohus, and his wife, Linda, who shared an obsession with science fiction and fantasy. They married on Halloween night 1983. And then there were Didi's illegal tenants — transients who rented the guest house in violation of city codes. " This cast of characters proved irresistible to the young Melanie . Whitehead. In the 1960s, she stood
SAN MARINO — The Sohus farii-

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Detectives try to unravel mystery of old home on Lorain Road
This story was reported by JenmfeiiAr^yJLdc^Iohnson aaSTSermce HirabayashiiJBid writteiinBy^rabayEKlir"^ on tiptoe to catch a glimpse of her neighbors over the backyard fence. "As a kid, I can remember just peeking over the wall and watching them," she said. "Everything was overgrown. I don't think they ever took care of the yard." Whitehead does not remember sounds made one night in particular: the scrape of a shovel digging a hole 4 feet deep. The crinkle of plastic as bags of body parts were placed in the grave. The Sohuses are gone, but they left behind a mystery that has everyone talking again. While digging a new swimming pool May5, construction workers uncovered a human skel* eton with matted hair and crum-;! bling clothing behind the home in the 1900 block of Lorain Road. Coroner's examiners determined the bones were those of a man. The body had been dismem-J' bered and placed in three bags. • Police believe that man was John Sohus. In 1985, John and Linda Sohus told some relatives they were traveling to Paris for a delayed honeymoon. Others remember them saying they were going to Connecticut to start a new life. Whatever their destination, on Feb. 8 of that year, the couple vanished. Police have not named suspects. Detectives are searching another state for a renter who lived in the guest house when
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Report expected j f ( on uncovered bones
Continued froiff'A' 1 ° 1994

MYSTERY

the couple disappeared. But all they have so far is a trail of aliases and old addresses. "We're using every investigative tool known to us," said Sheriff's Department Homicide Detective Bob Carr. More bones were discovered by pool workers Friday. A coroner's examiner and sheriff's physiologist said a knee joint among the bones was too large to be human. An official report is expected this week. "At this point, we're leaning toward the fact they are not human," said Sheriffs Department Homicide Lt. Ray Peavy. "It could be a horse." Friends, relatives and police pieced together the final days of the Sohus family: Two weeks before they disappeared, Linda told her sister, Katherine Jacoby, that she and John were moving out. They were going to Connecticut for a job interview. Linda Sohus, formerly Linda Mayfleld, worked at a science fiction and fantasy bookstore in Sherman Oaks called Dangerous Visions. Linda was also an established artist in the same genre. She showed her work in hundreds of conventions throughout the United States. John worked as a computer

programmer at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge and studied at Pasadena City College. But his true passion was for mythical beasts and powerful heroes. He was obsessed with the fantasy roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons, which he played with Caltech students, Bob Sohus said. John often browsed in the bookstore while Linda worked, said Lydia Marano, owner of Dangerous Visions. Everything seemed normal until one day in February 1985. Linda was supposed to open the bookstore that morning, but it was still closed when Marano arrived in the afternoon. _ Marano phoned Didi, who said the couple had gone to Paris for a delayed honeymoon. Several weeks later, Marano received a postcard from France of the Eiffel Tower. It was signed "Linda and John," Marano was upset, but figured the young couple wanted to escape from the mother they complained about so much. "We all think they just wanted to get away from the mom," Marano said. "She was a very nosy woman and would go in and toss the room. They put a padlock on the door to keep her out." Jacoby started to worry because Linda had abandoned a prized horse and other pets. In April, she filed a missing persons report on Linda with the _ San Marino Police Department. In May 1985, the man police are still looking for left the

guest house without notice, according to a second missing persons report filed by Didi in July 1985. Neighbors said the renter was in his 30s. Several months later, Linda's mother and Linda's best friend each received a postcard from France of the Eiffel Tower signed "Linda and John," said San Marino Sgt. Lily Hadsell. There was also a short message about how Linda needed geography lessons. At some point, Didi suffered a stroke. -In late 1985, she had to sell the San Marino house. Linda and Don Wetherbee watched over Didi in her last years at a La Puente trailer home. Linda Wetherbee would become the executrix of Didi's will. "She had an acid personality, but you had to get past that," said Don Wetherbee, who met Didi after she was nearly destitute from medical bills. Didi told Linda Wetherbee that Linda and John took several of her credit cards when they left. Charges on those cards were traced to New York businesses, Wetherbee said. After John disappeared, Didi seemed to lose what little zest she had for life, said close friend and San Marino neighbor Marianne Kent. Didi also suffered from a heart condition and breathed with difficulty. "After Johnny disappeared, she seemed heartbroken," Kent said. "She couldn't understand why he left her." The Wetherbees said Didi missed her son terribly. "We would go to her house and find her sobbing uncontrol-

SUNDAY, MAY 15, 1994 lably, saying they could have at least sent a letter saying they weren't going to come back," said Don Wetherbee. Jacoby said Didi once thought John and Linda were alive and on a secret mission. Didi claimed to be in touch with the couple through a third party, whom she would not name. Marano said fans from the tightly-knit science fiction and fantasy community have called with Linda sightings. Nobody at a recent meeting of the Los Angeles Science Fantasy Society in North Hollywood had seen Linda, but they remember her well. She went by the pen name "Cody." "She was a tall, good-looking woman with wide hips," said society president Matthew Tepper, who was smitten with Linda in the late 1970s. John Sohus was written out of Didi's will before she died of a heart attack in 1988, Linda Wetherbee said. She left a modest sum to a grandson she had met twice. Only a handful of people attended Didi's funeral, among them Linda Wetherbee. Didi's ashes were scattered at sea. Now, detectives trying to figure out what happened to John and Linda Sohus must gather clues sprinkled across the country. ' ' . , ' •Who's to say they ever will unravel the mystery of the old house on Lorain Road that neighbors always found so odd. "At this point we're clutching at straws," Detective Carr said. "We're not having a lot of luck."

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THE PLAYERS • Ruth "Didi" Sohus wrote for a local newspaper and held a pilot's license for small aircraft at a time when few women worked outside the home. •: . : < ^ ' " • Didi married three times, had one child and adopted another, John Sohus. An excerpt from her diary: Sept. 9,1960 — "John is really a clown. We are here in Springfield. Mo. tonight at the Parkview Motel. ($7) He is on the couch with the cord to the Venetian blinds, calling Momma & Papa and Daddy, holding the end to his ear, having a great conversation." Her last marriage was to Bob Sohus and lasted about 10 years. A journal recalls the day Bob left her — Dec. 26, 1960: "Bob moved out. Had already had apartment for over two weeks. We had . a lovely Christmas. He was in good humor. From then on everything was as nice as pie until he mentioned he had been to see a lawyer." • Didi sold her San Marino home on Lorain Road in 1985. She spent her final years in a La Puente trailer home, her money eaten up by medical bills. Friends Don and Linda Wetherbee once caught her attempting to order a luxury Jaguar car. . "She was used to the good life," Don Wetherbee said. • John Sohus was born Dec. 20,1957. He was adopted by Ruth and Bob Sohus as an infant. John was 5-feet, 5-inches tall, which is what led police to believe the bones buried behind the house on Lorain Road belong to him. ^ John was a loner in school, classmates at San Marino High School said. He had a reputation for being smart. Relatives said John suffered from diabetes and ulcers. A love for fantasy and science fiction drew him to a group of Caltech students who played Dungeons & Dragons. He married Linda Mayfjeld on Halloween night, 1983. • , •:. . ^ : ' ' ' . He disappeared in 1985. • Linda Sohus would be 37 if she is alive today. She dropped out of Venice High School in the 10th grade. • Her color-pencil piece "Ladies of the Lake" won Best Fantasy award at a 1984 science fiction convention in Scottsdale. It features black swans, bej'eweled and dignified, gliding on moonlit water. Linda was not close to her family. Her sister felt she may have been involved in John's death. "My sister wasn't like the rest of us. She was a little different," said Katherine Jacoby. . , , : . Wedding pictures of John and Linda Sohus show the difference in their sizes. Linda was about 6 feet tall and weighed 200 pounds. She had red hair. She disappeared in 1985.
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